The Downstate Democrats for Change (DD4C) in Madison County held their candidate forum this evening. Dan Stover and Vic Roberts are the IL-19 congressional candidates. William “Bill” Berry and Bruce Stewart are the candidates for the 5th Appellate Court. Since Mr. Stewart had a previous engagement at a Jackson County fundraiser, Philip J. Rarick, a previous 5th District Supreme Court Justice, spoke on his behalf.
The 5th Appellate candidates began the evening. Judge Rarick was the first to speak. He reminded everyone about avoiding statements violating Illinois Rule 67 (A Judge or Judicial Candidate Shall Refrain From Inappropriate Political Activity) which includes avoiding making statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues within cases that are likely to come before the court. He spoke about himself since Mr. Stewart and he seem to have philosophies that are extremely similar. When he responded to a question regarding Justice Karmeier and a case involving State Farm, he responded that judges should recuse themselves to avoid any appearance of impropriety. On HB-4610, Judicial Campaign Financing, and Merit Selection, voters should meet candidates, hear what they have to say, and ask them questions. The electoral system is good the way it is. For more specific questions on issues such as sex offender recidivism and capital punishment, members of the court need to address statutory law: Do the facts support the decision? States attorneys should file the necessary documents so that courts of review decide on bad sentences.
Bill Berry introduced the audience to his motto: Experience, Independence, Integrity. To him, any question of impropriety should have decisions based on a case-by-case basis. Merit selection is important to him. Voters need to know who is qualified or not for the job. It is too easy for candidates to give too much attention to special interest groups concerned about nothing but their own agenda. He reminded everyone that state courts do not decide on abortion or capital punishment cases. They go directly to the U. S. Supreme Court. The state legislation sets the type of sentencing, and the appellate courts cannot deviate from it.
The congressional candidates took their turn after the break. Regarding economics, Vic Roberts would like to repeal NAFTA and the Taft-Hartley Labor Act, increase tariffs, and address the issue of the Constitution allowing Congress to remain responsible for the currency. The country needs to address who is controlling the wealth. The Federal Reserve Bank System and an elite few Wall Street bankers and global financiers control the wealth and the country.
Mr. Roberts would like to see a national health insurance program. The millions of dollars that a few corporate CEOs make each year could fund the program. Many problems have a simple solution: lose the Republican Majority. They need to be a Minority. A true fiscal conservative would eliminate the waste and fraud. Mr. Roberts wants the U. S. military home. Pork barrel spending has to end and lose the tax cuts for the wealthy. The space program should be a lower priority as well. The bottom line is that monied interests grow larger at the expense of citizens.
Alternative sources are a viable answer to America’s energy problems. Mr. Roberts reminded the audience of wind power, geothermal sources, and coal gasification. Thermo-nuclear is also an option for consideration. He believes that citizens have the right to bear arms. In reference to campaign finance reform suggestions from James Carville and Paul Begala, Mr. Roberts said that big money would always have control, and legislators need to remove it completely. Unless politicians use public money for their campaigns, they will always have the potential to become puppets. Big money controls the media, and media has their favorites. Theodore Roosevelt had proposed such reforms 100 years ago.
Mr. Roberts ended his presentation with a few simple quotes. Among them were these two: “In the words of a great lady, Mother Jones, ‘Let us pray for the dead but fight like hell for the living.”’ “Evil triumphs when good people do nothing.” His website provides all the details on his views of the issues.
Dan Stover was the second congressional candidate. He listed the numerous endorsements he has received and believes that John Shimkus (IL-19) should keep his term limit pledge. He reminded the audience that the Republican Majority has given the country a national debt of $8 trillion -- That is $27,000 for every American. Everyone deserves quality health care. He visited the Gulf Coast states and provided disaster assistance so he has first-hand knowledge of that region's dilemmas. The Democrats have lost cohesion with their divisiveness and in-fighting. They have dropped the ball because of it.
The Budget included reductions to education expenditures. This is typical for Republicans since they can afford private educations for their children. The economy controls school enrollment. Legislators always consider the issue a high priority until they get to office. Mr. Stover will always consider education a high priority -- period. He is an educator. For him, it is a national defense issue.
Meth production is the drug problem. Heroin is the “in” thing for young girls. Mr. Stover believes in interdiction, education, treatment, and the “last chance” drug courts that former President Clinton and Janet Reno hoped to create.
Legislation should provide alternative methods for obtaining much-needed prescription medication. Republicans are fiscally conservative (aka Social Darwinism). Democrats are fiscally responsible. Social Security, the national debt, health care, etc. are the greatest threats to U. S. citizens. President Bush has given them a debt with interest that they cannot pay.
Oil companies received tax credits and subsidies. The country needs to reduce its dependency on foreign oil. Mr. Stover feels that legislation has been too generous to car companies as well. Ethanol, coal gasification, and conservation are viable alternatives.
Current campaign finance reforms are a “sham”. The real concern is who is giving to whom. Rep. John Shimkus has more than $1 million in campaign contributions as a direct result of his energy contacts. Mr. Stover’s fundraising comes from the working Americans of IL-19. Unions have contributed approximately $2,500. He promises to never sell his vote, and voters are smart enough to know when a person has sold their soul. To him the choices are special interest or good government. Any reform proposals are really First Amendment issues. He recommends campaign disclosure within three days.
The Second Amendment is important to the economy and culture of Central and So. IL. This is a complex issue. Mr. Stover feels strongly about enforcing reasonable gun regulations. Society needs a balance. He wants to save children’s lives and remain a friend of gun owners. Legislation should focus on real problems. No one has ever committed a terrorist act with a modified 50 caliber gun.
President Bush is the best secret weapon for any congressional candidate. Just when it looks as if his activities have hit rock bottom, he discovers a new low: Libby, Tom DeLay (TX-22) contributions, giving away U. S. ports, etc. Mr. Stover feels that he offers IL-19 a better way. Legislators need to support the troops under any and all circumstances without following blindly. They should have an honorable and dignified exit strategy.
As for high crimes and misdemeanors, impeaching President Bush can never happen while the Republicans control the Senate and House of Representatives. This election is a litmus test. Corporate America has a voice in John Shimkus (R-Collinsville). Both Democratic congressional candidates assured the audience that whoever wins the Primary will receive the other’s complete support.
GO VOTE!!On a rather interesting note ---> At the end of January, the DD4C had sent their announcement of their February 27, 2006, candidate forum, open to the public, to all the local newspapers. The event appeared in the Granite City Press-Record and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Newspaper management for the Highland News Leader in Illinois refused the request. Instead, the February 27, 2006, issue featured an article that John Shimkus (R) IL-19, congressional incumbent, wrote. It appeared on page A4 above the fold with his by-line and picture. The Community Democrats had requested the announcement, and the Highland News Leader provided space to a Republican incumbent while newspaper management refused to announce or cover the forum. The decision of newspaper management raises a perception of bias in the context of newspapers' or other news-gathering units' responsibilities to report and comment upon such activities. This is a direct violation of American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) ethics. Highland voters should send a letter to the editors and the newspaper’s large-block advertisers. They should also send a copy of their letter to P. Anthony (Tony) Ridder, Chairman and CEO of Knight-Ridder, Inc. (NYSE: KRI). This is an opportunity for Democrats to send a message to newspapers of the Republican syndicates that they will not tolerate unfairness.About the DD4C: Pam Gronemeyer, MD, created the DD4C in November 2005 to advance the cause of the Party. In her Highland, IL, office, she encourages ordinary people to return to the political process. The organization offers grassroots support and assistance to progressive candidates identified as having a viable chance of being elected in local, state, and federal elections. Their next meeting is March 15, 2006, at 6:30 p.m.